Thursday, March 3, 2011

I Recommend: Bakuman

Find the first volume of this series at: [Amazon] [Borders] [Barnes & Noble]

It's probably worth mentioning to the moms out there that no, this series is not related to Bakugan, the funky collectible game your kid was into a few years ago. No plastic dragon marbles here!

Every once in a while, a comic creator gets the urge to share their experience with fans. Some do this by writing how-to guides, filming themselves at work, or answering fan mail. And a few, like Tsugumi Ohba and Takeshi Obata (the writer/artist team behind Death Note,) go the extra mile by creating an all-new story about the business itself.

This brings us to Bakuman, the story of a young artistic prodigy and the eccentirc writer classmate who convinces him to embark on a career in manga-making. Their journey gives readers a rare glimpse into the competitive and high-stress world of the Japanese comics biz (albeit with some contrived events to add narrative drama and supply our heroes with the equipment they need to dive right in with the pros.)

There's also a romantic subplot, as our hero and his love interest enter a pact that ties the fate of their relationship to the success they achieve in their respective careers. Readers who dislike sappy romance will likely find their eyes a-rollin' at those scenes, but for others, it's bound to elicit a heartmelting "d'awwwww."

Some reviewers have noted that Bakuman isn't exactly the most feminist of works. And not without reason: the male heroes sometimes get swept up in enthusiastic "manga is a man's world!" declarations. Still, it's hardly the worst treatment women have gotten in entertainment, comics or otherwise, and Ohba and Obata have been in the biz long enough to recognize the impact women have on the manga industry - even in the boy-centric shonen demographic the story focuses on.

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